The Real Reason Why Presenting Is So Nerve Wracking!

Since presentation skills training is one of the things we are best known for, I thought of giving you some really important pointers on presenting, just in case you have a presentation looming and you haven’t the time to get yourself on to a programme.

No-one starts out as a good presenter. You will find, however, that those who did public speaking or drama at school have a considerable head start. Logical, one would think, and quite a good point too! So lesson one – get your kids to do public speaking ASAP. Age 4 is a good time to start. Nothing wrong with age 44 either.

On a two-day presentation skills course we usually involve each delegate in three live presentations – in other words, they stand up and talk, and we video them and then provide structured feedback. In some cases this procedure is enough to make the poor delegate lose control of all bodily functions simultaneously resulting in some interesting situations which I shall not go into now! You see, when “our friend” is given his briefing, which includes a limited time to prepare, some strange quirk of logic happens: Our friend proceeds to spend every second of his allotted time focussing on the content of what he’s going to say, and absolutely no time on the aspects of delivery that the audience is actually going to see! And then, after desperately wanting to do well, he inevitably finishes feeling that he hasn’t, and heaps lavish portions of criticism on himself. We really are too hard on ourselves.

Now lets see how simple it can be. Audiences get far more value from a simple, easy to follow presentation delivered audibly with a smile, at a moderate pace and with plenty of eye contact than….an intellectual roller coaster delivered at breakneck speed with 459 slides. And here’s the next surprise: Your audience would far rather you gave a good account of yourself than the converse. They’re not seriously waiting for you to mess up so that they can guffaw with mirth, despite the fears we so often entertain. Well not usually anyway.

So what is the real reason for all of our trepidation? Why do we become so afraid, jittery and nervous? It is simply this: We are all concerned, to a greater or lesser degree, about what people will think of us. This fear has become so embedded in mankind that it has been etched into the culture of the Chinese by way of the expression “losing face.” From prehistoric days cavemen and cavewomen have sat around a fire or rock chatting, very much as we may do today around a table of sorts. This is a natural way to socialise. But having to stand up and talk to a bunch of folk is a completely different ball game, historically only reserved for the leader of the tribe (who only found it easy to do through, among other things, experience). For us, the risk of “messing up” looms large. Hence, we find it rather tough to do. Nowadays, however it’s not only the CEO who does presentations, is it? So we ALL have to learn how to present, find out what our personal weak points are and go about putting them right. And this too is a gradual process, a one-step-at-a-time journey to being really good at getting up and talking to people – rather than at them.

The presentation process has six steps. They are:

  • Understanding all the rules of presenting
  • Preparing adequately (not only your content, but your visuals and yourself as well!)
  • Practice before going live
  • Delivery
  • Receiving feedback
  • Acting on the feedback

And that’s why you can know about it, you can watch others do it and you can see what they’re doing right and wrong. But until you’ve done it yourself, you’ll never know how good you can be, and what your personal opportunity areas are. Anybody can present. Some just take a bit longer to learn than others. It’s like learning to drive a car, or operate a computer! Its all about experience isn’t it? And the best way to start is to get a good coach right from the beginning. Ask Tiger Woods.

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